This Week: Bananya, Mob Psycho 100, Cheer Boys, and Amanchu!
Four after-school clubs enter, one will fall.
Bananya [Episode Three]
With our character introduction episodes behind us, our first “proper” gag bit of the show is Bananya watching television. Much like we watch Bananya. Eyes wide at this impossible sight.
We know from previous outings how the characters in this show operate on a kind of Toy Story logic. They only come out and about to indulge in their own devices when the humans of the house are not around to see them. I doubt we will ever see the folks who live there (for good reason; it would spoil the show).
So it is a given when the channels start flipping this is not a case of Bananya enjoying a lazy weekend afternoon with their “owners”.
We are short on time and the bananya’s are even shorter on words.
As a result, emotional exaggeration is key. Bananya flailing from one feeling to the next, as nine different channels cycle before them, and accentuated by his very shape. Being a cat inside of a banana, he lacks the wide range of motion a regular house cat would have. His stubby jumps when aiming for the birds on one screen, his limited reach when attempting to comfort a crying lady on another. The most natural motion to come to mind, perhaps, would be his potential to fly end over end. A boomerang without the extra aerodynamic qualities which cause it to return. This too finds its way in. These are characters well designed for attempts at physical slapstick humor. So while everyone was chatting all at once on the table last time, it is a relief this episode was not a micro-level character conversation.
The narrator is important, and is driving our little tours into Bananya’s world. But it helps all the more when they have action to play off of. He had been doing a lot (required) informational dumps until now, so this gives us a better sense of their dynamic going forward.
Baby and toddler style characters have to walk a fine line in a gag comedy series. They can make for extra helpings of cuteness, and their less rational actions can throw good screwballs for a cast to deal with. Too much screen time though, and an audience may get just as annoyed as the other characters. Double or more if the baby is crying or screaming for what seems likes ages.
Baby Bananya being our remote control button slapper fulfils a few duties. It allows them the physical quality of tiny little hops from button to button, amusing themselves while causing light trouble elsewhere in the room. Baby Bananya is happy, as nobody is interfering with them. Their channel surfing rampage is nothing so dire it would cause genuine trouble. They facilitate the entire episode and Bananya’s reactions, despite not being the main focus.
A simple but effective use of a baby, while still causing those around them to go bananas.
Mob Psycho 100 [Episode Two]
A broken clock is right twice a day. So it stands to reason the one, the only, Arataka Reigen would have some genuine solutions to what ails his downtrodden customers. Handled all by himself, that is. Without needing Mob to do anything more than man the front desk.
Arataka may run a cut rate physic shop as a con operation, but honing powerful massage skills does mean he can handle some things himself. Sometimes folks just psych themselves out due to what turns out to be a minor ailment or simple pervasive cramp. So all he has to do is claim the thunderous massage is in the name of exorcising a pesky shoulder curse or such. The satisfied customer will be none the wiser and leave with a smile on their face. He did need to have some positive results to his name before meeting Mob, after all, or he never would have stayed in business long to begin with. All this fast food and office space do not pay for themselves.
Mob raises the concern of it he is making effective use of his adolescent years. So on a similar front, I can appreciate the dynamic of Arataka versus Tome from the school Telepathy Club having dueling cons to maintain or flip Mob to their side. Arataka wanting a monopoly on Mob for the psychic exorcism business dealings he can not handle himself. Meanwhile the Telepathy Club is on a death clock if they can not secure an addition member. One seeking his hidden power, another desperate for his ability to fill in a space on a student council spreadsheet. The Telepathy Club, outside of a genuine ESPer interest held by the club president, is the often idealized Haruhi Suzumiya style SOS Brigade. No real structured goals or activities. Eating snacks, playing games. Taking advantage of the ability to secure a dedicated hangout room and some school provided slush funds by way of their club budget. The push and pull for Mob’s limited time and attention is selfish for both parties.
He is just a pawn waiting for orders in the midst of all this, his wants and needs are not considered or asked much of.
ONE likes to lean on some hyper broad strokes age old comedy bits at times in their work.
Like last week’s swipe by wheeling out a less attractive woman by traditional standards and having her confused for a man, we have another creaky gender joke. The one where two males dress up as young women to infiltrate an all-girls social group or building (a school, in this case). Police figures stop one for being a dangerous pervert (the less pretty of the two). The other waved by with smile to run along because “She” is safe now.
I have never liked these jokes. I will never like these jokes.
These only hurt me.
The series has a lot of positive things going for it, and energy is chief among them. Serving up the whole slate of tired and molded over sitcom bits from decades ago about ugly women and gender misreads each week would be an exhausting recurring trend.
Our spirit busting part of the episode places Mob in a different predicament than last time around. The major boss we saw in his previous outing was a billion-eyed grub monster with giant teeth. Mob eaten, exorcised the beast from within, and that was that. This encounter is not much longer, lasting only around a minute. But, the spirit does get to share some parting regrets on their way out. How they played the “loser” role in life. Seeing similarities of themselves in their exorcist, and in turn asking Mob if they were leading each day to the fullest.
Asking and leaving Mob to find their own conclusions was not something Arataka or Tome had done. They were just trying to crush the other from appearing a viable option. And the spirit noticed how Mob was awkward around girls, and there is a girl Mob would like to be closer to.
Shutting the tug of war game down by choosing to go with the new Body Improvement Club instead is Mob making a choice for himself in pursuit of his own goals. This is a good sign for him. Mob reasons this is the proper way to get Tsubomi’s attention. He used to show off his psychic powers for her as a kid, but she became bored by them and impressed with sporting prowess. Long term this is… well, not outright bad, but complicated. It was new novelty versus his powers having become routine which was the factor before. Mob’s emotional suppression gives him plenty of trouble reading a social situation. Now he is making activity choices based on wanting to live an ideal adolescence, which may well backfire by not understanding Tsubomi’s past actions.
In a worse case scenario, that sure would had a whole lot of fuel to his budding explosion gauge.
Cheer Boys (Cheer Danshi!!) [Episode Three]
With the cheer team boosted up to six members by the end of last week, all which remains is to get a seventh so they meet the bare minimum required.
Given who we have in the group so far, we have a whole gamut of personality types and motivations for joining the fledgling cheerleading unit. But even with the variety of backgrounds present, the one thing they lack is anyone with genuine bonafides in gymnastics. Setting their sights on one of the very best their university has to offer, yet shot down on the grounds of being naive. Below an acceptable level of performance. A waste of their time. Harsh, but not unfair. Our cast may as well just be doing handstands or flips for fun and attention on the university quad. Same as when some guy drags his guitar out there or some such similar bit.
The major push for this episode is a condensed week of heavy practice sessions in a bid to show up their doubter and convince him to join. The back handspring in particular is a special focus, as an advanced solo move. So if everyone learns it, they will be in a better position to sell how serious they are. On a narrative level, this is all well and good. Where I feel this episode buckles and winces is under the strain of needing to animate these sessions. Cheer is a sport with a high emphasis on visuals and looking at the performers do their thing. So shot after shot of these practices being freeze frames and speed lines feels underwhelming. This is extra true considering how much practice makes up the bulk of the episode. Even Ton accomplishing the back handspring after a week of many failed attempts seems less striking when boiled down to four still shots. I hope this is not indicative of a larger pattern, as it did detract from the episode.
The show does excel in other visual production aspects, such as giving everyone a wide wardrobe. But seeing a full range of motion for character accomplishments seems important in this series.
Back on the character front, I did like Gen pulling Haru aside to talk about Ichiro.
As Gen and Ichiro have a childhood history, he was able to shine some light on some things. Ichiro has trouble understanding the frustration others can feel in physical activities. He has a knack for learning fast when it comes to this, but can not quite wrap his head around the idea where this is not the case for everyone. It gives Haru recollections of his sister’s Judo performance levels, and he is able to better understand his new teammate a bit more. A strength of the show has been in trying to take care to set up the ensemble, rather than letting them just be one note personalities around Haru as a central lead.
Gen and Ichiro may have joined the cheer squad last week with an eye towards getting the attention of various university age women around them. We may have met Gen through his trying to impress girls via a restaurant curry challenge. But the show is giving some early attention to the notion they have a few finer granular qualities also. Outside of large full team practice sessions, we are going to hit a point where the volume of recruits necessitates folks hanging out in smaller groups for various scenes. The members having more than a single defining trait is going to make for better character moments down the line. Even if the animation fumbles some future tumbles, setting up security nets from the writing side now will help a lot. Animation can get tweaks leading up to a home video run. The writing is often forever.
Shou’s closing statement regarding how he will only join the team under the condition he will not perform any stunts is interesting. These are the more complex building and aerial moves Kazuma was using to showcase different cheer positions. It is a rather large ask in a team sport, as by definition this means Shou only wishes to perform solo moves.
Given his initial dismissal of joining what he considered an amateur group with poor form, I can think of two possibilities. One would be he has seen enough from the boys to at least join and participate in the same group, yet concerned enough to not trust them with his own safety. Another would be a backstory case. Perhaps Shou and a previous gymnastics oriented team were on different levels before, and some kind of injury occurred.
In either case ultimatums like this are rare to see upheld throughout an entire show. Shou is all but guaranteed to defrost. It is only a question of if he allows others to support him, or if he helps lift someone else higher.
Amanchu! [Episode Three]
Futaba made a few leaps of faith following Hikari around last week. But one magical little afternoon sneaking around the pool is not going to turn her entire world upside down.
This is only the third day of school. Talking to others is still rather nerve wracking. The lunchtime practice of eating in the classroom can accentuate this, as she would need to move her desk to join a small group with any of her classmates. It is a bit more of an intimate thing than just plopping down at a communal cafeteria table, and to her credit Futaba does have the passing thought to try. Yes, she writes herself off as being better off alone right away after standing up. But there are those small slivers we see where she wants something more for herself. A constant focus has been on her cell phone, be it flipping through pictures of folks she knew at her old school or seeing if there are any new text messages. I imagine Futaba’s personality was still rather shy in Tokyo, so I do wonder how much of an impression she made on the folks she hung around with.
I mean, I once moved near the start of a school year. I took a trip back to the old neighborhood for Halloween just two months later, as the day makes a good reason to just knock on a bunch of doors. But nobody I used to hang around with in yards and such even remembered my name.
Hikari keying into some of this adds further to the small nuances she showed last week with wanting to take the long morning walk. She went to get chocolate croissants to share with Futaba and invites her to go home together, but when thanked for this on the way back she stops on a dime. She then comes to dismiss this by saying Futaba is making too big a deal out of it, but Hikari does go and volunteer more about herself. In particular, how she is bad at expressing her ideas or putting things into words. Peppy Hikari is as much about psyching herself up as anyone else, which goes back to some of the crushing self awareness she expressed last week on the bus. She wants to jazz herself up, but can overdo it in ways that can be misunderstood or embarrassing. Hikari would not have meant to appear as if she was abandoning Futaba at lunch. But saying she was running off to get chocolate croissants for the two of them would have been tricky for her to vocalize. Likewise with leading Futaba the scenic cherry tree laced road to make her feel better. Hikari clams up to just blowing her whistle for several on screen minutes once she decides to take her there.
I can understand how some viewers could find frustration in her various whistle antics. But this was a swell use of it as a kind of coping and confidence mechanism.
The second half of this episode covers our regulation crash course in some central concepts behind how the main activity of the show works.
A fair enough development as any, and we have a small clubhouse room to do it in. If Futaba’s visit at the pool last week allowed for a number of sweeping dynamic camera angles to visualize her mental state, we have a far more confined area this time around. This is a time for whiteboards, pressure mathematics versus water depth, and how to avoid crushing your respiratory system.
The show does well here to keep a sense of wonder. Fading the room away to sky when characters speak of the air. Treating the windows like they are under the ocean. Surrounding a seated Futaba with undersea fish. Amanchu! has to have some sort of small dive study component for Futaba, but it is not like this is a full on educational program either. This is a light comedy with a focus on pleasant healing atmosphere. These backdrop bits, combined with the usual light seaside style string instrumentation, do go a long way to maintain the vibe. Even if we are in what amounts to a furnished quasi-storage shed. The show could have gone a far easier route, just relying on the simplified Muppet-esque reaction faces to carry it through these lessons. But the extra escapism polish goes a long way. It feels attentive and thoughtful, and maintains mood.
One of the utmost critical rules in diving is to always keep breathing. It is important theme for the two lead characters, as they work out their personal hang-ups. But it is also good to see on a performance level even in functional scenes, like here in the club room.
To breathe life and maintain a certain atmospheric pressure, rather than throw it to the wind.